BINH THUAN SHIPWRECK (c. 1608)
The Binh Thuan Wreck
was found by fishermen 40 miles off the coast of Binh Thuan Province,
southern Vietnam, in 40 m of water. Maritime Explorations excavated
the wreck in conjunction with the Vietnam Salvage Corporation
(Visal), the Binh Thuan People's Committee, and the Ministry of
Culture. The hull was that of a Chinese junk, 24 m long, 7 m wide,
and divided into 25 narrow compartments by transverse bulkheads.
Archival evidence points to the junk of the unfortunate merchant,
I Sin Ho, who was transporting a cargo of silk and Chinese goods
from China to Johore for the Dutch when his ship sank off the
south of Vietnam in 1608.
64 m long supply boat, Dai Lanh, was used as the base for the
excavation. A total of 50 personnel, including 20 divers, lived
and worked on Dai Lanh for a month and a half. Diving was by means
of KMB-18 masks and surface decompression on oxygen. Airlifts
were used for removing the overburden. Desalination, cataloguing,
and sorting were carried out onshore in a warehouse provided by
the Binh Thuan People's Committee.
cargo comprised cast-iron pans and Zhangzhou (Swatow) porcelain:
blue-and-white, overglaze enamels, and a combination of the two.
This is the first dedicated cargo of Zhangzhou porcelain to ever
be found. There were also finer blue-and-white ceramics in a variety
of shapes from other kilns. Non-ceramic artefacts were typical
of a Chinese junk, and included locks, a scales set, chopsticks,
and copper alloy bowls and dishes.
Thuan Wreck Details and Photos
The Vietnamese Government
selected all unique ceramics and artefacts, and four fully representative
sets to remain in Vietnam for ongoing study and museum display
throughout the country. The remainder, all multi-duplicates, has
been made available for sale after full documentation. A large
part of the proceeds has been earmarked for the construction of
a museum in Binh Thuan Province to house the wreck finds and other
cultural objects. Christie's Australia conducted an auction in
Melbourne on the 1st and 2nd of March 2004 in which all lots sold
for a total of A$2 million.
1. A Cargo of Zhangzhou
Porcelain off Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, Flecker, M., Oriental
Art Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No.5, (2002/03).
Binh Thuan Wreck, Christie's Australia,
containing the full archaeological report by Dr. Flecker, Melbourne,
3. Treasures of
the Binh Thuan Shipwreck, Flecker, M., Heritage Asia Magazine,
Vol. 1 No. 4, June-August 2004.